Watchdog encourages “retailer representation” on pop-up shop code

popupThe Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released a draft determination proposing to grant re-authorisation to the Shopping Centre Council of Australia Ltd (SCCA) for its Casual Mall Licensing Code of Practice.

The voluntary Code of Practice applies to shopping centre owners and manager who sign on to it. It regulates the terms on which participating shopping centres will grant casual licences to temporary retailers such as ‘pop-up’ shops.

The Shopping Centre Council of Australia is an industry body which represents Australia’s major owners, managers and developers of shopping centres.

The ACCC has previously authorised a similar code of conduct in 2007 and 2013.

“The ACCC’s preliminary view is that the code provides public benefits by giving a degree of certainty and transparency for permanent retail tenants about how casual mall leasing will operate near them,” ACCC deputy chair Dr Michael Schaper said.

“In order to encourage all parties to engage productively, the ACCC’s preliminary view is that it is appropriate to re-authorise the code for three years, rather than the five years sought by the applicant.”

“However, we have heard strong concerns on behalf of some retailers that the code isn’t serving all retailers well in practice, and this is reducing the benefits from the code,” Dr Schaper said.

The draft determination highlights concerns from a number of retailers that the code is not working as effectively as it could, and seeks comments on a number of possible improvements.

To address some of these concerns, the SCCA recently proposed to invite more retailer groups to join the code and sit on the Code Administration Committee.

“The ACCC strongly encourages the Shopping Centre Council to increase retailer representation. Further, we consider that the effectiveness of the Committee would be improved by appointing an independent chair,” Dr Schaper said.

The Code of Practice is voluntary. Shopping centres who have not signed up to it may still offer casual mall licences on terms they consider appropriate. The Code of Practice itself does not create the right to grant casual mall licences.

The ACCC is now seeking views from interested parties in relation to the measures proposed in the draft determination. After this further consultation, the ACCC will make a final decision whether to grant authorisation.

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